British Executions

Matthias Brinsden

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 24 Sep 1722

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown



Executed for killing his wife.

Brinsden stabbing his wife

THIS offender served his time to a cloth-drawer, in Blackfriars, named Beech, who, dying, was succeeded by Mr. Byfleld, who left his business to Brinsden, who married Byfield's widow; but how long she lived with him is uncertain.

After the death of this wife, he married a second, by whom he had ten children, some of the elder of whom were brought up to work at his business. At length he was seized with a fever so violent that it distracted him, so that he was tied down to his bed. This misfortune occasioned such a decay in his trade, that on his recovery he carried newspapers, and did any other business he could, to support his family.

Going home about nine o'clock one evening, his wife, who was sitting on a bed, suckling a young child, asked him what he should have for supper. To which he answered, "Bread and cheese; can't you eat that as well as the children?" She replied, "No, I want a bit of meat." "But (said he) I have no money to buy you any." In answer to which she said, "You know I have had but little to-day;" and, some farther words arising between them, he stabbed her under her left breast with a knife.

The deed was no sooner perpetrated than one of the daughters snatched the infant from the mother's breast, and another cried out, "O Lord! father, you have killed my mother." The prisoner now sent for some basilicon and sugar, which he applied to the wound, and then made his escape.

A surgeon, being sent for, found that the wound was mortal, and the poor woman died soon after he came, and within half an hour of the time the wound was given.

In the interim the murderer had retreated to the house of Mr. King, a barber, at Shadwell; whence, on the following day, he sent a letter to one of his daughters, and another to a woman of his acquaintance; and in consequence of these letters he was discovered, taken into custody, carried before a magistrate, and committed to take his trial for the murder.

When on trial, he urged, in his defence, that his wife was in some degree intoxicated, that she wanted to go out and drink with her companions, and that, while he endeavoured to hinder her, she threw herself against the knife, and received an accidental wound.

However, the evidence against him was so clear, that his allegations had no weight, and he received sentence of death. After conviction he became serious and resigned; and being visited by one of his daughters, who had given evidence against him, he took her in his arms, and said, "God forgive me, I have robbed you of your mother: be a good child, and rather die than steal: never be in a passion; but curb your anger, and honour your mistress: she will be as a father and mother to you. Farewell, my dear child; pray for your father, and think of him as favourably as you can."

On his way to the place of execution, the daughter above mentioned was permitted to go into the cart, to take her last farewell of him, -- a scene that was greatly affecting to the spectators.

As some reports very unfavourable to this malefactor had been propagated during his confinement, he desired the Ordinary of Newgate to read the following speech just before he was launched into eternity.

'I was born of kind parents, who gave me learning: I went apprentice to a fine-drawer. I had often jars, which might increase a natural waspishness in my temper. I fell in love with Hannah, my last wife, and after much difficulty won her, she having five suitors courting her at the same time. We had ten children (half of them dead), and I believe we loved each other dearly; but often quarrelled and fought.

'Pray, good people, mind, I had no malice against her, nor thought to kill her two minutes before the deed; but I designed only to make her obey me thoroughly, which the Scripture says all wives should do. This I thought I had done when I cut her skull on Monday, but she was the same again by Tuesday.

'Good people, I request you to observe, that the world has spitefully given out, that I carnally and incestuously lay with my eldest daughter. I here solemnly declare, as I am entering into the presence of God, I never knew whether she was a man or a woman since she was a babe. I have often taken her in my arms, often kissed her, sometimes given her a cake or a pie, when she did any particular service beyond what came to her share; but never lay with her, or carnally knew her, much less had a child by her. But when a man is in calamities, and is hated like me, the women will make surmises be certainties.

'Good Christians, pray for me! I deserve death: I am willing to die; for, though my sins are great, God's mercies are greater.'

He was executed at Tyburn, on the 24th of September, 1722.

If any credit is to be given to Brinsden's last solemn declaration, his wife, as well as himself, seems to have been of an unhappy disposition, since they could not refrain from quarrelling, though they had a sincere regard for each other. We fear this is but too commonly the case in the married state; but it is a lamentable consideration that those who have engaged to be the mutual comfort and support of each other, through life, should render the rugged path still more difficult by their mutual contentions and animosities.

It is the part of a husband to protect his wife from every injury and insult; to be at once a father and a guardian to her; and, so far from ill-treating her himself, he ought to be particularly watchful that she be not ill used by others: the tenderer sex have a natural claim to the protection of the more robust. Indeed it would appear that one reason for Providence bestowing superior strength on the man, was for the defence and protection of the woman.

On the other hand women should be grateful for this protection; and, in the emphatical words of St. Paul, wives should learn to be 'obedient to their husbands in all things.'

Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
Ev'n such a woman oweth to her husband:
And when she's froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
What is she but a foul contending rebel,
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?


It is a very unfortunate circumstance when persons of opposite sentiments happen to be united in wedlock: but, even in this case, people of sense and humanity will learn to bear with the failings of each other, considering that much allowance is to be made for their own faults. They will endeavour to make the lot which has befallen them more supportable than it otherwise would be; and, in time, by the constant wish to please, they may even conciliate the affections of each other, and mutual happiness may arise where it is least expected.

In general, however, a coincidence of temper and a purity of manners, added to a sacred regard to religious duties, are the greatest security for happiness in the married state. Beautiful are the lines of the poet:

Two kindest souls alone should meet,
'Tis friendship makes their bondage sweet,
And feeds their mutual loves:
Bright Venus, on her rolling throne,
Is drawn by gentlest birds alone,
And Cupids yoke the doves.